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Finding the right fish

fish plateStanding in front of the fish counter to choose a healthy fish for dinner can feel like a daunting task. You might ask yourself:

  • “Should I choose farmed or wild?”
  • “Which fish is high in mercury?”
  • “Is canned fish a good alternative?”

According to Seafood Health Facts, Americans eat 14.6 pounds of seafood per person each year. For comparison, annually we eat 53.3 pounds of beef, 57.7 pounds of chicken and 600 pounds of dairy products per person.

Fish and seafood are incredibly nutritious sources of protein. Plus, they provide us with things like vitamin A, vitamin D and anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats. Eating fish even just one night a week could quite possible make a positive impact on our health and waistlines.

Let’s address those common questions about fish and seafood to make your next visit to the fish counter much less overwhelming.

Which fish is high in mercury? Should I even be concerned?

Due to the direct pollution of waterways from coal-fired power plants many types of fish and seafood now contain high levels of mercury. High amounts of mercury can damage the brain and nervous system. Unborn babies and young children are especially susceptible to mercury poisoning.

A general rule for avoiding toxic mercury is to think small. This means choosing small fish and shellfish like sardines, squid and scallops instead of large fish like tuna, shark and swordfish.

The reason why is because small fish are lower on the food chain. When the big fish eats the small fish, the predators absorb the mercury contamination present within them.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) provides a Smart Seafood Buying Guide to help you make seafood choices that are low in mercury. Some of the seafood they suggest that have the lowest amount of mercury include: anchovies, butterfish, catfish, clams, crab, freshwater trout, herring and mackerel. You can find their full guide here.

Should I choose farmed or wild fish?

We should be concerned about the health and well being of the fish we eat as much as we’re starting to pay attention to the welfare of the chicken, beef and pork we enjoy.

Most farmed fish and seafood are fed low quality diets and in very close confinement — nothing like their natural environment. Not to mention the runoff from fish farms pollutes waterways and contaminates the marine ecosystem.

There are some exceptions. The Environmental Defense Fund has deemed commercially available mussels, clams, oysters, and bay scallops as healthy and eco-friendly.

The Seafood Watch Pocket Guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium can help you decide which seafood in your region is healthiest and best for the environment. Download their app by clicking here.

Is canned fish a good alternative to fresh?

The short answer is yes. Some canned fish can be an excellent alternative to fresh fish. Not to mention the convenience of canned fish for lunch or to make a quick dinner makes it a pantry staple.

The National Resources Defense Council lists canned salmon on the “least mercury” list of their Smart Seafood Buying Guide. Canned light tuna also has less mercury than white albacore, which is on the “high mercury” list.

As with most package products it’s important to be informed about the company you are purchasing your canned fish from. Check out their website and see where they stand when it comes to ensuring the health and welfare of the fish they are selling you.

My preferred brand is Wild Planet. Their fish is 100 percent sustainably caught. Plus, they catch smaller tuna ensuring that you are receiving a fish that is lower in mercury. I also am a big fan of their sardines packed in water.

Curious about sardines? They are a nutritional powerhouse that you should definitely consider including in your diet. Check out my video that will debunk the mystery of opening a can of sardines. Trust me, it’s not as scary as you think!

Watch the video by clicking here.


Tanya McCausland, NC, practices Holistic Nutrition at Simply Well in Carlisle. She supports clients through nutrition and lifestyle counseling focused on hormone balance, digestive health, pre/post natal nutrition, food allergies and many other health challenges. Learn more about her and her programs at www.homecookedhealing.com.

The Critical Importance of Mentors

mentoringI have always known that my success in the military and since was due in large measure to several mentors who provided me critical assistance throughout my life. If you are blessed with a mentor, you know that he or she is only a phone call away despite the fact that you might not see each other for several years. I could always call my mentors day or night to seek their advice and assistance.

But what exactly is “mentoring” and why is it important? Mentoring has been described as a dynamic relationship in which a more experienced person (the mentor) acts as a guide, role model, teacher, and sponsor of a less experienced person (the mentee). It is based on several distinct elements including:

  • Reciprocity, collegiality, authenticity, and mutuality.
  • Intentional role modeling
  • A “safe harbor” for self-exploration (disclosure)
  • Transformation particularly of the mentee’s professional identity.
  • A connection that endures.

The Harvard Business Review conducted a survey of 1,250 top executives as listed in The Wall Street Journal. It discovered that 65 percent had at least one important mentor. Furthermore, the analysis suggested that executives with mentors had higher salaries, more rapid promotions, greater achievement of career objectives, and higher overall job and life satisfaction. It has also been discovered that organizations with a culture of mentorship have lower attrition rates.

Through this relationship, mentees seek better job performance that may include more involvement in professional organizations. They also want help with networking, job opportunities, and finding greater satisfaction in the organization they are part of. Over time they will likely want assistance in achieving a stronger sense of professional identity, more productivity, and having a greater impact.

I would argue that having a mentor and eventually becoming a mentor is particularly important for those who are members of one of the following professions – the military, medicine, education, the clergy, the media, or law enforcement (lawyers, judges, and police). Such occupations are focused on the continued development of the abstract knowledge associated with the profession and the critical service it provides society. Consequently, the development of the next generation in the profession is a critical requirement. I was amazed how quickly I found other younger officers seeking my advice and counsel as I progressed through my career, and I am confident that most teachers, doctors, lawyers, ministers, journalists, and policemen have had the same experience.

Effective mentors must, first and foremost, take the time to get to know the mentee. Spend the time to learn their strengths and weaknesses as well as their goals. In doing so the mentor must “affirm” the path the mentee is taking while gently shaping as well as redirecting them away from unrealistic aspirations. The mentor is both a teacher and a coach. He or she must look for “teaching moments” during their time with the mentee and, if working in the same organization, demystify the “system” for the mentee while providing the “lay of the land.” The mentor must be prepared to offer counsel in difficulty times but challenge the mentee in order to stimulate their growth. When appropriate, the mentor should actively sponsor the mentee and hopefully match opportunities with their “dreams.” This may also be part of pointing out milestones and successes to the mentee while helping them to objectively step back and appreciate their own progress. Finally, an effective mentor has to be humble and have patience. He or she must be open to feedback particularly as the mentee matures. Nobody wants a “perfect” mentor. Humble mentors model their own fallibility. Important qualities for effective mentors include patience and high-quality emotional intelligence.

Good leaders are not only effective mentors but also seek to create a mentoring culture in their organization. This is difficult to do but essential nonetheless. Leaders must continually stress its importance and how it is closely related to the organization’s mission, vision, and values. It may also require not only traditional mentoring but also peer and team mentorship. An effective program will seek to select mentors carefully, train/support them, prepare mentees, and assess/reward mentors for their efforts. It should also be a topic during annual performance review discussions, and many organizations conduct annual surveys in order to ascertain the level of satisfaction and experience with mentoring. Finally, it should be part of all exit interviews when a member of the organization is departing.

Being a mentor is crucial to the success of any organization, and I would argue a professional responsibility. An expert on mentoring described it as “the seal of approval.” He further observed, “to have a mentor is to be among the blessed. Not to have a mentor is to be damned to eternal oblivion or at least to a mid-level status.”

Furthermore, we would all be wise to remember the words of the author, Robert Louis Stevenson:

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much;
Who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;

Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has left the world better than he found it;
Who has looked for the best in others and given the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration,
Whose memory is a benediction.

Stevenson was clearly describing a mentor. I know because having mentors has been invaluable to me, and I only hope that I have fulfilled my responsibility of being a mentor to others along the way.

Leadership Lessons from the Alamo

Leadership Lessons from the AlamoAlamoBattlePaintingTexasStateLibraryNArchives

The Alamo fell after a 13-day siege March 6, 1836 — 180 years ago this month. All of the defenders were killed, though many historians believe that a few survived the fighting and were later executed on the order of General Santa Anna. These included Jim Bowie, William Travis, and Davy Crockett. The total number of Mexican casualties is unknown. Santa Anna claimed only 70 of his men were killed, but there are a number of accounts by other soldiers and inhabitants of the city that suggest over 400 were killed in the fighting. Susanna Dickinson (the wife of an Alamo defender), her infant daughter, as well as Colonel Travis’ slave Joe survived and were released by Santa Anna.

There are numerous leadership lessons/insights that can be taken from the siege and battle but let me provide five:

The importance of the leader’s vision. Every organization needs a vision that defines where the organization is going. One of the most important tasks of any leader is not only to articulate his/her vision but also to emphasize it when speaking to the members of his/her team. An effective vision must provide clarity of purpose and be communicable, comprehensive, and transformational.

Stephen Austin is in many ways the father of Texas. He arrived in 1822 and accepted a land grant from the Mexican government. He fulfilled the requirements to become a Mexican citizen and guaranteed the same for the other immigrants that accompanied him. Over the next decade he would encourage other Americans to settle in Texas and would become a leader of independence. Later in his life Austin would say:

“The greatest consolation I ever expect to derive from my labors in the wilderness of this province will arise from the conviction that I have benefitted many of my fellow beings, and laid the foundation for the settlement of one of the finest countries in the world.”

How do you identify future leaders? This is a real challenge for any leader. The leaders at the Alamo and for the entire Texas revolution were somewhat surprising. Jim Bowie had been accused of being a land swindler and being involved in the slave trade. It is alleged that he was a friend of Jean Lafitte’s — the pirate! William Travis had abandoned his wife in Alabama and fled to Texas. She would later follow to divorce him. Davy Crockett was a famous frontiersman and Congressman, but prior to coming to Texas in 1836 Crockett would lose a reelection campaign. Prior to leaving Tennessee, he allegedly told some of his constituents, “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas!” Sam Houston was not at the Alamo but would lead the Texas revolutionary army to success at the Battle of San Jacinto. Houston had been governor of Tennessee but resigned after his wife deserted him. He became an alcoholic and returned to live with the Cherokees where he had spent time as a boy. He had come to Texas to make a new start in 1832 and after the success of the revolution became the first President of the Republic of Texas.

The selection and development of the next generation of leaders in any organization may be the most important task of any leader. Most organizations depend on resumes and interviews that are largely focused on what an individual has accomplished in their career to that point. But the Alamo suggests that Peter Drucker, the internationally renowned management consultant, was correct when he said, “experience only matters if you believe the future will look like the past.” The hiring and promotion process must include some consideration of individual competence, but it also must include an examination of potential, interest, drive, ethics, etc.

Critical thinking. Effective leaders should always challenge the implicit and explicit assumptions of their organizations. He/she must constantly be reminded that critical thinking is important to the success or failure of the organization. This is the leader’s ability to receive information, evaluate the information, recall prior relevant information, assimilate the information by comparing differences and determining cause/effect, and evaluating the information in order to make timely decisions and solve problems.

The Texans assumed Santa Anna would not lead an army into Texas until late spring. But the Mexican president surprised them by leading his army across 300 miles of difficult terrain during a bitter winter. Colonel Travis, commander of the Alamo, ignored reports from his Texcano scouts that the Mexican Army approached. Santa Anna might have totally surprised the Texans had a rainstorm not bogged down his advance a scant eight miles from San Antonio. All leaders must keep in mind that despite their best plans and efforts their competition or opponent also “gets a vote.” As you make decision and adjust your plans, they can do so as well.

Diversity on the team can be a strength. We often think or talk about the defenders of the Alamo as “Texans.” This is inaccurate. Half of the 180 defenders came from the southern portion of the United States and twenty from the North. 29 were from Tennessee. Many were not Americans including a number of Texcanos (Mexicans who had chosen to fight for independence). Forty came from Great Britain (eleven of them were Irish). There were a few Germans and one Dane.

Successful leaders realize that there is strength in diversity. But diversity is often times not just ethnicity or race. It also includes the number of men and women as well as sexual orientation. Diversity can also be considered for the various generations that are on the team from the Baby Boomer to the Millennial. Diversity allows an organization to draw on differing perspectives and insights. Furthermore, diverse organizations frequently have an advantage in terms of innovation and new ideas. But this requires leadership that, beyond underscoring the importance of diversity, emphasizes the requirement to help members of the team learn both the importance of diversity as well as the need for team harmony in order to be effective.

The power of communications. Communications is fundamental to leadership and is a skill that leaders can develop. Modern leaders must deal with multiple forms of communication — written, oral, telephone, email, social media, etc. The effective leader must decide which is appropriate for each situation. At a minimum, the leader must frequently communicate the organization’s mission, vision, and values to all of the members of his/her team.

By February 24, 1836 Colonel William Travis realized that the situation at the Alamo was becoming increasingly desperate. He sent a famous letter to the convention of Texas patriots that were meeting at Washington-on-the-Brazos. In the letter Travis describes the mounting threat the overwhelming Mexican force poised to the defenders and requested reinforcements. He concludes the letter with the famous line “Victory or Death!” A rider departed the Alamo under the cover of darkness that evening and delivered it to the convention. By March 16 the letter and Travis’ final words had spread across Texas to New Orleans and from there across the United States. It would become a rallying cry for Texas independence.

On March 6, 2016 I encourage you to take a moment and reflect on this famous battle that occurred nearly two centuries ago, the men who died, and the lessons we can learn. Some historians argue this was one of the most important battles in the 19th century. The Battle of the Alamo allowed time for the Texas Army to prepare and eventually defeat Santa Anna at San Jacinto roughly a month later. This resulted in the creation of the Republic of Texas that would join the United States in 1845. The subsequent war with Mexico ended not only with an American victory, but the United States expanded its territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This relatively small battle and the efforts of the 180 defenders of the Alamo set the stage for the establishment of the continental United States.


Dr. Jeffrey McCausland, Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership, LLC is a retired Army Colonel with over 30 years of unique and challenging leadership experiences. As a retired military officer and veteran Jeff’s work has taken him all over the world serving in a variety of command and staff positions in places such as the on National Security Council Staff, U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and the Pentagon.

Whole Foods for Heart Health

heart healthAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 600,000 deaths in the United States each year are attributed to heart disease, that’s one in every four deaths. Coronary heart disease alone costs the American public almost $109 billion each year. Our rising obesity and diabetes trends also play an important role in our nations continuing epidemic of illness.

Our diets have changed more in the last 100 years than in the last 10,000. If you asked your grandmother what she bought at the grocery store, what would she say? What kinds of things did her mother buy? I know that my grandmother wasn’t buying neon colored cereal or mac and cheese from the box for my mom. I remember standing on a stool in my grandparents’ kitchen at four years of age teaching my grandfather the magic of mixing orange powder with milk to make creamy cheese. This was completely new to him!

Most of our food today comes from factories instead of farms. Food is now processed, packaged, labeled with various health claims and strategically placed on grocery shelves at eye level (or our children’s eye level when it comes to that neon colored cereal). We have replaced butter with processed margarine and sugar with high fructose corn syrup because we thought they were the healthier and cheaper options. But, despite buying foods that are labeled “low fat,” “heart healthy,” and “all natural” we are becoming sicker and fatter than ever before. This food is making us very sick and our heart health is suffering significantly.

The way we are eating and living is clearly not working. In our ongoing quest to make food healthier we’ve neglected to notice that food already IS healthy. I’m not talking about sugar free drinks, low fat yogurt or even a package of kale chips. The best foods for our heart and overall health are the whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods that nature is providing us. Brown rice and quinoa, leafy greens and Brussels sprouts, squashes and parsnips, apples and avocadoes, real butter and olive oil — these whole foods provide you with all the vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, antioxidants and fiber you need to keep your arteries clear and your heart pumping strong. Remember, factories cannot create healthier food than nature.

To get you started here are three tips for eating for heart health:

  • Skip the Sugar: on average Americans consume 75-100 pounds of sugar each year in the forms of white cane sugar, beet sugar, high fructose corn syrup and others. Studies have shown that sugar suppresses the immune system, causes arterial inflammation and is highly addictive. Sugar is not just in your favorite candy bar – it is hidden in everything from deli meat to applesauce. Start reading labels and avoid sugar in places where it shouldn’t be. Sugar in soup? No thank you! Save your sugar intake for occasional sweet treats instead.
  • Focus on Fiber: In the past we thought fiber was just helpful for making toilet time a little easier. While this is true, fiber also acts like a cholesterol “sponge” soaking up cholesterol-laden bile salts in the small intestine and eliminating them through the bowels. Soluble fiber in particular is great for supporting heart health. Foods rich in soluble fiber include oatmeal, beans, legumes, peas, carrots, pears and citrus fruits. Try to eat fiber rich foods at every meal, including snacks!
  • Get Cooking: When we cook more at home we eat healthier, less processed meals by default. Restaurant and take-out food is full of inflammatory fats, preservatives and loads of salt — 75 percent of our salt intake comes from eating out! You can start by simply making a big pot of soup, stew or chili on a Sunday night to eat for supper during the week. Start packing your lunches at least 2-3 times per week. Go to the library and check out one or two cookbooks for inspiration. Get your kids involved and ask them to help you re-create their favorite restaurant meal at home.

Tanya McCausland, NC, practices Holistic Nutrition at Simply Well in Carlisle. She supports clients through nutrition and lifestyle counseling focused on hormone balance, digestive health, pre/post natal nutrition, food allergies and many other health challenges. Learn more about her and her programs at www.homecookedhealing.com.

Why organic isn’t everything

Organic isn’t a new idea or concept. Before World War II, all crops were organic because they weren’t Organic-produce-in-basketsprayed with chemical fertilizers or pesticides. The USDA Organic label was put into circulation in October 2002 and has since been put on everything from bananas and tomatoes, to cereal and frozen dinners.

According to the USDA National Organic Program, “organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.” In short, organic defines how the food or ingredients were created, prepared, or raised.

However, the organic label is not synonymous with health or nutrition. A small study done by Cornell University showed that the organic label greatly influenced people’s perception of food, leading them to think certain foods were lower in calories and even tasted like they were lower in fat. The organic label is no longer an informative label but rather a marketing tool used to sell us more food.

Reducing the amount of chemicals and toxins in our food is, without a doubt, important and good for our health. And when transitioning to eating a diet rich in whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods, it can seem like eating 100 percent organic is the healthiest option and a must. But this may not be possible depending on where you live. Organic can be a bit pricier and sometimes cost prohibitive for some at first.

Here are four things to keep in mind when eating whole foods and choosing organic:

  • Organic cookies are still cookies: Don’t let the organic label lead you to believe that one cookie is better or healthier than another. It’s not. An organic cookie can still contain loads of sugar, preservatives and other unrecognizable ingredients. The same goes for cereals, soups, pasta dishes, and frozen dinners. Read every label and ingredient list to become familiar with what’s in your favorite products.
  • Eat whole foods: If you want to eat a more whole foods diet, don’t let the organic label make it feel impossible or unaffordable. The first step is to eat and cook with whole, unprocessed vegetables and fruits – apples, bananas, berries, cabbage, carrots, avocados, potatoes, leafy greens, mushrooms, and more! When you start choosing apples over packaged cookies your health and wallet will thank you.
  • Choose local first: By choosing local fruits, veggies, and meats, you’re supporting your local agriculture and farmers. Plus, your food didn’t have to travel thousands of miles to get to you and lose a significant amount of nutrients. Your small local farmers are likely following organic practices but can’t afford the expensive certification. Check out your local farmers market and buy most of your groceries there.
  • Learn the list: The Environmental Working Group has a list called the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. This list shows the 12 most sprayed foods and the 15 foods that are either not sprayed or have a thick skin that we don’t eat. When you are ready to start purchasing organic foods use this list as a guideline.

You can get the full list at www.ewg.org.


Tanya McCausland, NC, practices Holistic Nutrition at Simply Well in Carlisle. She supports clients through nutrition and lifestyle counseling focused on hormone balance, digestive health, pre/post natal nutrition, food allergies and many other health challenges. Learn more about her and her programs at www.homecookedhealing.com.

Meet the most successful president you’ve never heard of

This February is particularly important for Americans and president-want-to-be’s. First, it is the monthshades_polk_0002 in which we celebrate President’s Day. Second, 2016 is a presidential election year. Finally, the month begins with the all-important Iowa Caucuses and is followed by the New Hampshire Presidential Primary. So it seems only appropriate that we consider a successful president you may know little about—President James K. Polk.

Successful presidents must create a strategic vision, communicate that vision to the nation, and then pursue its execution. Classic examples are Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, FDR’s speech to Congress on Dec. 8, 1941, or John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address calling for the nation to “place a man on the moon by the end of the decade.” Even the Bible notes, “Without vision, the people perish…”

But creating a vision is not sufficient. As Warren Bennis, a famous leadership scholar, observed, “Action without vision is stumbling in the dark; vision without action is poverty stricken poetry.” Every leader must answer four critical questions as he or she seeks to implement the path they have chosen for their organization:

  • How do we get there? (Assess)
  • Where should we go? (Decide)
  • How do we get there? (Implement)
  • Are we getting there? (Assure/reassess)

President James K. Polk was our 11th chief executive and a protégé of President Andrew Jackson. Inaugurated in 1845, he announced soon after assuming the presidency that he would serve only one term. Polk was the youngest man to assume the presidency to that point. He had served as Speaker of the House of Representatives and is the only person to have held that office as well as the presidency. In 1839, Polk left Congress and was elected governor of Tennessee. He failed, however, in two governorship reelection attempts, and political pundits at the time thought “Young Hickory” (as he was called due to his ties to Jackson) was finished in politics. In 1844, the Democratic Party appeared deadlocked at the nominating convention between its two potential candidates—former President Warren Van Buren and Lewis Cass of Michigan. The aging Andrew Jackson intervened and convinced party leaders to select Polk as a dark horse candidate.

As we consider the often-bruising nature of modern politics it is important to remember that campaigns in 1844 were also rough and tumble. Polk’s opponent was the nationally renowned Henry Clay, known in Congress and throughout the country as “the Great Compromiser.” Shortly after Polk’s nomination, Clay’s Whig party published campaign literature that asked “Who is James K. Polk?” The Democrats responded with a pamphlet entitled “Twenty-one Reasons Why Clay Should Not Be Elected.” Reason Two was “Clay spends his days at the gaming table and his nights in a brothel.”

Polk defeated Clay and was inaugurated on March 4th 1845. The looming question of the day was whether or not the United States would annex Texas and expand its national boundaries westward. The “Lone Star State” was an independent nation at that moment following its successful revolution against Mexican authority in 1835. In his inaugural address Polk stated his vision and made his intent clear:

The world has nothing to fear from military ambition in our Government. While the Chief Magistrate and the popular branch of Congress are elected for short terms by the suffrages of those millions who must in their own persons bear all the burdens and miseries of war, our Government cannot be otherwise than pacific. Foreign powers should therefore look on the annexation of Texas to the United States not as the conquest of a nation seeking to extend her dominions by arms and violence, but as the peaceful acquisition of a territory once her own, by adding another member to our confederation with the consent of that member, thereby diminishing the chances of war and opening to them new and ever increasing markets for their products.

Still President Polk must have known that war with Mexico was likely if the United States proceeded to annex Texas. Furthermore, many Americans were clamoring for war to achieve the America’s so-called divinely inspired “Manifest Destiny” and expand the nation’s borders to the Pacific. The Mexican War (as it is referred to in the US) began in the spring of 1846 and ended with an American victory by the fall of 1847. Members of the Whig Party opposed the war, as they believed it was both imperialist and an attempt to seek new territory for slavery. One of the primary Whig Congressional opponents was a young Illinois congressman named Abraham Lincoln.

So why is Polk considered to be the most successful American president you may have never heard of? Polk clearly articulated his vision and intent as President in his inaugural address. He assessed the situation when he assumed office that the United States had an opportunity to expand and seek its “destiny.” He decided to pursue that with the annexation of Texas while knowing that this would likely mean war with Mexico. Polk implemented his vision by setting conditions that insured war would occur. He led the nation to victory and negotiated the Treaty of Hidalgo with Mexico. President Polk also concluded an agreement with Great Britain that settled a boundary dispute between the US and Canada in the Northwest Territories. We can reassess how well he did by considering that in this one term Polk added a million square miles to the territory of the nation. This included Texas as well as the current states of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. Furthermore large portions of Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado were also part of these agreements.

Some might disagree with Polk’s vision or how he implemented it, but there can be little doubt that he had in fact articulated a vision, communicated it clearly, and then executed it. He accomplished all of this in one four-year term. But Polk appears to have been exhausted by his four years in office. As he prepared to depart Washington, he observed, “I am heartily rejoiced that my term is so near its close. I will soon cease to be a servant and will become a sovereign.” James K. Polk left office in March 1849 and died a few months later at the age of 53.


Dr. Jeffrey McCausland, Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership, LLC is a retired Army Colonel with over 30 years of unique and challenging leadership experiences. As a retired military officer and veteran Jeff’s work has taken him all over the world serving in a variety of command and staff positions in places such as the on National Security Council Staff, U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and the Pentagon.

Eating for Awesome Energy

Keeping blood sugar stable is not only important for someone diagnosed with diabetes, it is critical for Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 4.51.19 PMeveryone to maintain stable energy, balanced hormones, healthy weight and metabolism.

During a busy day you might put off eating, thinking, “I just don’t have time to eat right now.” Eventually you become so hungry and desperate the only foods that you can consider eating are simple carbs and sugar. In that situation, your blood sugar has dropped so low that things like cake, cookies, crackers, and sweets are the only bits of sustenance that can get your blood sugar back into a safe zone.

These foods will certainly raise your blood sugar, but it will also drop back to an unsafe level quickly thereafter—and then the vicious cycle continues.

I like to explain balancing blood sugar and metabolism by using a campfire as an example.

To start a campfire you use kindling: small pieces of wood that burn easily and quickly. Once you have a small fire, you add larger logs so that you have a sustainable fire that will continue to burn. Something that will keep you warm or that you can roast a marshmallow over.

The kindling in the example above are simple carbs: rice, pasta, bread, cookies, cakes, and muffins for example. These foods burn hot and fast in your body, just like kindling.

The bigger logs on the fire are protein, healthy fats and fiber-rich foods. Proteins and healthy fats are found in foods like beans, wild caught fish, grass fed meats, pastured eggs, nuts and seeds. Fiber rich foods include leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, fruits and whole grains.

Many people start their day with a breakfast comprised of “kindling food.” Cereal, bagels, muffins, and even coffee all burn hot and fast in our bodies leaving you wanting more shortly thereafter. Then, hunger hits at 10 a.m. and you’re making a b-line for the office candy bowl or vending machine. Sound familiar?

That’s what happens when you try make a big campfire (or fuel your body) with kindling alone. You keep reaching for those fast burning foods all day long. Cravings for sweets and carbs have nothing to do with willpower but are a physiological response by your body. It knows what it needs, but we just have trouble listening.

If you struggle with low energy and managing a healthy weight, think about what foods are fueling your campfire. Start your day with a protein-rich breakfast and don’t put off eating. Instead, keep snacks on hand like raw nuts, hummus and veggies or hardboiled eggs.


Tanya McCausland, Diamond6’s communications manager, is a nutrition consultant and owner of Home Cooked Healing. She helps her clients create healthy and sustainable lifestyle habits through 1:1 coaching, workshops and talks.

The Significance of Ethics for Military and Professional Life

Ethics is of utmost importance: ask the CEO’s of leading corporations or America’s military leaders. Yet, at the same time, we might just as well dismally conclude that ethics is of no significance whatsoever! Just witness the private proclamations and even more the behavior of some of those same kinds of leaders when it comes to understanding, believing, and practicing what they preach.

Ethics is a bit like one of its key components: lying and truth-telling. No one publicly celebrates or advocates telling lies. Everyone testifies to the importance of the Truth. Yet everyone lies, and does so often: to spouses, children, friends, business associates, and the IRS – and usually feels that it is necessary or justified – at least in their very own “unique and exceptional” individual case.

Is this simply hypocrisy on our part? We say one thing and do the opposite? Or is it evidence of something even more complex.

I suggest that anyone puzzled or troubled by this apparent paradox simply try cross-examining those who proclaim to believe in the importance of ethics, and ask them further what they themselves understand and mean by “ethics.”

I predict that you will get a wide range of responses. Some people will quote a dictionary or encyclopedia definition, about living a “good and honorable life,” or consistently trying to “do what is right.” Others may cite beliefs in the inviolability of certain moral principles (such as “truth-telling,” above!), and go on to relate these moral principles to important religious or philosophical teachings from wise men or great leaders. Others may think that the lifelong cultivation of moral virtues and “good character” is the key to ethics.

But they will seldom cite the same religions, the same “great leaders,” or the same moral principles. They will often disagree, in fact, on what virtues are most important (is it courage or honor, loyalty or trustworthiness?). And this is because, finally, each person you consult will think these are all matters of highly variable personal conviction or opinion. In fact, about the only thing that people seem to agree on is the belief that “ethics” is a matter of personal or cultural opinions about right and wrong, and that there is little or no commonality among or between distinct individuals or cultures other than what “ethics” itself actually is.

That view is widely held. But that does not mean it is true or accurate.

What it does mean is that those who believe it are exempt from having to search deeply for better answers or firmer foundations for justifying moral beliefs. Instead, we are free to attribute bad behavior to the different beliefs about ethics by others respecting what constitutes right and wrong, rather than to wonder whether they (or we) might be mistaken about some of those beliefs. As a result, apart perhaps from self-interest, there seems to be little in the way of a shared conception of the Good at which right moral actions should aim.

Interestingly, such views fare less well within well-defined professions, like medicine or the military. Members of a professional community, engaged in a common enterprise like health care or defense of the nation, are less free to “go their own ways” with respect to moral beliefs. They share a conception of the Good at which their common professional activity aims: e.g., the health of their patients, the security of their citizens (in these two instances). They are thus compelled, whether they wish to or not, or always realize it or not, to engage with each other in a search for better or worse means of attaining or achieving those ends.

Assuming only a good-faith commitment to the practice of their profession, that is to say, the members of that profession are compelled to engage with each other about the proper practice of their profession. They are led to generate a common code of practice and ideals of best practice. And often, in reflecting upon some of the worst tragedies and disasters that befall individual members of their profession, they are led to further specify clearly the boundaries of acceptable professional practice, and the definition(s) of professional malfeasance. (This is what doctors did, for example, after World War II, in what is known as the “Nuremburg Code.”)

But that is precisely what “ethics” itself is: the discernment, through reflection upon our practices, of both the limits on acceptable conduct, as well as upon the standards and ideals upheld within the best practices of our profession. Often this process involves teaching these ideals and limitations on acceptable behavior to new recruits or initiates as an orientation to the profession, or else “publishing” them to the wider community in the form of a Code of Ethical Conduct to help our fellow citizens know who we are, and the values for which we stand (as well as to remind and guide our own members toward the fulfillment of these ideals).

At least in these important instances, where there is some prospect of sharing a common notion of the Good, there is less debate about what “ethics” itself is. “Ethics” consists of a commonly-forged and widely-shared conception of proper conduct of our lives and affairs in the wider world. In the wider world, in turn, we rightly hold to account the physician or the soldier – or for that matter, the teacher or the clergyman, the lawyer or the journalist – for living and practicing in accordance with the highest ideals of their chosen professional practice, while simultaneously avoiding transgressing the limits on acceptable professional conduct.

This is “professional ethics.” We are entitled to hold ourselves accountable for living up to these standards, or, when required, to sit in judgment of those who fail to do so. There is nothing self-righteous or sanctimonious about demanding that we all live according to the rules, laws, and ideals to which we have all voluntarily agreed, and that we all have freely shared in forging.

This, in turn, offers at least a clue about what “ethics” itself consists of in the wider world: an even broader call each and every one of us – whether doctor, lawyer, soldier, or citizen – to commit ourselves to proper, principled action, while continuously reflecting on the better and worse ways of living well and doing Good in our world, striving always toward the realization of the highest ideals of being a human being, as such. That is the proper understanding, and the proper practice, of “ethics.”


George Lucas is Distinguished Chair in Ethics Emeritus at the U.S. Naval Academy, and Visiting Distinguished Research Professor at Notre Dame University. His latest book is Military Ethics: What Everyone Needs to Know (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

Lucas's book comes out today.
Lucas’s book comes out today. Click here to purchase. 

Myanmar and the whirlwind of change

If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less…

— Unknown American politician

Earlier this year I had the great pleasure to visit Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). I served as a IMG_0134member of an American delegation, and we met with a group of senior retired Myanmar military officers and government officials. Our discussions focused on Myanmar’s ongoing transition from more than fifty years of military rule to democracy and the implications for U.S.-Myanmar relations.

I came away from this visit with several overarching impressions. First, Myanmar is a beautiful country and its people are some of the most delightful and hospitable that I have met in all my travels. Second, due in part to its isolation from the international community the nation suffers from a host of problems. These include poverty, several distinct ethnic insurgencies in various parts of the country, human trafficking, illegal gun smuggling, counterfeiting, illicit narcotic production, unlawful fishing, and crime syndicates robbing the country of both precious metals and timber. Finally, it became clear that the elections planned for November of this year were critical if Myanmar wanted to continue on its democratic journey or revert back to military rule.

There was also no question that Nobel prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was going to be a key figure in this transition and the elections. She had been imprisoned for many years by the military junta and is widely considered the most popular person in the country. Most experts predicted that her National League for Democracy (NLD) would win in the November 8 elections, but most were very surprised by the landslide victory. The NLD won two-thirds of the seats they needed to control both houses of parliament and choose the next president. The military-backed party won only 40 seats.

In the days and weeks ahead the political developments in this lovely country of over fifty million people will be interesting to follow, and Aung San Suu Kyi has already been outspoken that she will lead in its change. But this also serves as a clear illustration for any leader of key techniques for the change process. He or she must:

  • Be fully involved in the change process from the onset. This cannot be delegated.
  • Decide upon, buy-in, and formalize a vision for the organization.
  • Communicate the vision. Aung San Suu Kyi must address the cultural concerns that have divided the country along ethnic lines, and any leader must also carefully consider issues of organizational culture that must be addressed during the change process.
  • Establish a sense of urgency and tie this to a credible reality and achievable goals that demonstrate progress.
  • Identify change agents and form coalitions with key stakeholders.
  • Select, educate, delegate, and empower others to effect change.
  • Seek short-term successes in order to gain momentum.
  • Finally, institutionalize new approaches. The leader must employ a “systems perspective” to insure planning is comprehensive.

Change for Myanmar will be difficult and like any organization there will be setbacks along the way. Furthermore, like any leader confronted by change, Aung San Suu Kyi’s determination and resilience will be sorely tested. But the people of Myanmar clearly want it to work. The world is watching and hoping that this process will result in a more democratic and prosperous Myanmar. I hope to go back in late spring 2016 and look forward to seeing how the country’s continues to develop.


Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.

Get better sleep, tonight.

The National Sleep Foundation recently released new recommendations for how much sleep we need—Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 1.31.00 PMfrom infants to the elderly. Some of the ranges for children and teens have changes but the standard seven to nine hours per night for adults stands firm. (To see the breakdown of recommendations by age go to www.sleepfoundation.org)

While some still use the adage “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” the reality is that lack of sleep is linked to health condition that could get you there sooner.

Sleep is absolutely critical for our health and well-being. While you’re sleeping, your liver and brain clear toxins and your immune system is strengthened. Lack of sleep has been associated with long-term chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Plus, if you aren’t sleeping well, chances are it is having a negative effect on your stress levels, productivity, focus, and mood.

If you have trouble falling asleep, are waking up in the middle of the night, or aren’t waking up rested, you could be putting your health at risk. Try these five tips for getting better sleep tonight:

1) Sleep in the dark: Melatonin is a hormone that rises at night and helps us go to and stay asleep. However, it is very light sensitive. For it to rise and be effective, it has to be dark. To that end, make sure your room is completely dark. Turn off night-lights, cover lights from electronics, and get room-darkening shades. If you need a night-light, choose one with a red bulb. Red light does not interfere with melatonin production.

2) Unplug before bed: For many people, the last thing they see at night is the screen of their computer or cell phone. These electronics emit strong light directly into your eyes that can also depress melatonin production. Turn off all electronics at least an hour before bed to get your body ready for sleep. Instead, read a book, do some stretching or enjoy a cup of tea.

3) Stay in rhythm: Sticking to a natural sleep/wake cycle (circadian rhythm) keeps your body in balance. Having a regular bedtime and wake time helps your body stay in that rhythm, ensuring better sleep and more energy when awake. What is important is to stick with the same bedtime and wake time even on the weekends and during vacation. Sleeping in on the weekends and on days off can throw your body out of balance again.

4) Go to bed early: You might claim to be a night owl or be more productive after midnight. However, your body can’t clear toxins and do repairs if you’re surfing the Internet or mopping the floor at 2 a.m. Try to go to bed by 10 or 10:30 p.m. to give your body plenty of time to do its job so you can do yours—when the sun is up.

5) Create a comfortable bed: Your bed should be a place that you look forward to relaxing and sleeping in. If there is something about your bed or bedroom that is uncomfortable, then change them. Is your mattress old and soft? Are your sheets too hot or too cold? Maybe your pillows are lumpy and uncomfortable. Invest in your bed and make it a place of peace and relaxation that you look forward to.


Tanya McCausland, Diamond6’s communications manager, is a nutrition consultant and owner of Home Cooked Healing. She helps her clients create healthy and sustainable lifestyle habits through 1:1 coaching, workshops and talks.